The Foreskin Debate

Is there a new superhero in town? For some anti-circumcision proponents, that superhero is none other than Foreskin Man.

San Francisco’s controversial proposal to ban circumcision on its November ballot has continued to draw attention around the country (and parts of the world). The bill would make it a misdemeanor crime to circumcise anyone under the age of 18 – with a penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Furthermore, supporters of the bill have now attempted to propose similar ballot measures in other American cities. One of those cities is Santa Monica, CA, which also has a large Jewish population. It is not only the Jewish community which is up in arms over the proposed measure, but the Muslim community as well, as Muslims also practice ritual circumcision.

I will not attempt to rehash a response to the controversial bill, as others have already done so. For example, see a recent article by Rabbi David Wolpe or another response by Christian theologian N.T. Wright.

However, what has been even more interesting is the discussion over an anti-circumcision comic which many have found (including myself) to be seriously anti-Semitic. The comic, known as Foreskin Man, was created by Matthew Hess, the author of both San Francisco’s and Santa Monica’s anti-circumcision bills.

It is one thing to be against circumcision. It is another thing to take the anti-circumcision rhetoric to a new level as Hess does in his comic. The hero of the comic is Foreskin Man, the typical blonde haired, blue-eyed superhero who’s described mission is “to hunt down criminals who cut the genitals of innocent boys.” The reference here is an attempt to imply that circumcision is on a similar par as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and an issue of human rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Furthermore, the villains of the comics are what has the Jewish community in an uproar – Dr. Mutilator and Monster Mohel. Monster Mohel, the arch-villain created by Hess is depicted in a black and white Tallis, dressed as an Orthodox Jew with the stereotypical hooked nose, peyos, etc. And he is always pictured with a blood thirsty, evil look.

A recent press release from the Anti-Defamation League blasted the comic for going too far. ADL’s Associate Regional Director, Nancy J. Appel, criticized the comic for portraying mohels as “rapacious, bloodthirsty, and bent on harming children” and noted similarities with blood libels, which accused Jews of ritually murdering Christian children for their blood (which apparently gives matzah its flavor).  Appel also pointed out that “No matter what one’s personal opinions of male circumcision, it is irresponsible to use stereotypical caricatures of religious Jews to promote the anti-circumcision agenda.”

Many might think that this is a harmless comic book, and that the Jewish community is yet again making a big deal out of nothing. However, the subtle message and imagery is not so harmless. The essential foundation of the comic is the good Aryan superhero against the evil, blood-thirsty Jews who prey on innocent children. And the stereotypical imagery is only a further reminder of similar propaganda initiated in Nazi Germany.

What do you think? Is Foreskin Man just a harmless comic book, or something worth speaking out against?


About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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6 Responses to The Foreskin Debate

  1. thanks for the post Rabbi Joshua. I was not aware of this comic and am saddened to see something like it being published. Definitely something we should stand up against for sure. good word my friend!

  2. James says:

    I’ve been following this story, including the “Foreskin Man” comic book. It is obviously a cheap shot at the Jewish community. If it were all about caring for “poor little baby boys”, then the “comic” would be aimed at both the Jews and Muslims as well as those parts of the medical world advocating circumcision for health reasons.

    I read recently that the attempt to put this on the ballot in Santa Monica was withdrawn, but in San Francisco, where apparently “anything goes”, I guess the “progressives” thought the atmosphere was right to be able to “take on the Jews” and win. That anyone would seriously consider putting this up for a vote illustrates that San Francisco (and I used to live there) has spun out of our time-space continuum and into a fantasy-verse all their own.

  3. JE Clark says:

    I don’t know what Matthew Hess’ agenda is, but he definitely has one.

    As for the comic book, yes, I think it is very important we stand up and call it what it is: blatant anti-semitism. We should always stand against any kind of anti-semitism or hate speech directed at anyone. Because if we do not defend ourselves and others against bigotry and hate, who will?

  4. Caitlyn says:

    have these people ever witnessed a bris? I’ve sat through quite a few and as far as I can tell, there is no cruelty. The babies are almost always more annoyed at the alcohol swab (used to clean the penis; it’s cold and wet but not painful) than any other part of the procedure. But no, obviously they’ve never witnessed a bris because the ceremony is clearly barbaric and they have no wish to be involved.

    The only objecters I have any sympathy with are the ones who object to *any* form of body modification for children, including pierced ears. I don’t agree, but at least their position is consistent.

  5. JD says:

    It is outrageous!!! wow!! Actually it is more sad than anything else! It is sad to see how low we have fallen once again.

  6. Thx for this great information that you are sharing with us!!!

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